Registered voters who showed driver’s licence barred from votingPoll body says voter identity card, citizenship certificate, passport and national identity card were the only identification documents recognised for voting.
Arun Kumar Poudel reached his hometown-Bidur Municipality two days ago to vote in the local elections. He had no doubt that he would be able to cast his vote for he had his name on the voter roll. But on Friday, he could not vote because he could not produce any of the identification documents recognised by the Election Commission for the purpose of voting–voter identity card issued by the commission, citizenship certificate, passport, or the national identity card.
Since he had lost his voter identity card, he showed his driving licence to polling officials, but they refused to entertain it.
According to a statement issued by the commission on May 11, people without voter identity cards can cast vote by showing either a citizenship certificate or national identity card or passport or a land ownership certificate. There was no mention of the driving licence and other identification documents.
“I lost my voter ID and forgot to take along my citizenship certificate, which I have in my room in Kathmandu,” Poudel said. “I had my original driving licence which I showed. I also showed a photocopy of my voter identity card on the website of the Election Commission, but they did not allow me to vote.”
In the 2017 local elections, people were allowed to cast votes by showing more types of government-issued identification documents. The election body had allowed voters to cast their ballots by showing the voter identity card issued for the 2013 Constituency Assembly elections, citizenship certificate, passport, driving licence, land ownership certificate or any other identification document issued by a government agency, provided that their names were on the voter roll.
Bikash Adhikari, a resident of Bidur-7, said he was deprived of voting, as he forgot to carry his citizenship certificate and voter card. “I have my driving licence but it didn't work here,” he complained.
According to Dev Raj Niraula, election officer deployed at Chandeshwari High School polling centre Bidur-7, Nuwakot, dozens of people were barred from voting because they had brought with them driving licence or social security beneficiary cards, but not the identification documents prescribed by the commission.
“We could do nothing to help them because the Election Commission this time narrowed down the criteria of identification documents for voting purposes,” he said. “This is not my decision to bar anyone from voting. I have been instructed to implement the commission’s decision.”
Election Commissioner Ram Prasad Bhandari claimed that the commission has adopted flexibility to ensure higher participation of voters in the elections. “It is true that we have not accepted driving licences after reports of fake or forged driving licences,” he said. ‘But we have allowed most other identity cards. People who showed the photocopy of citizenship certificate, and identity cards of advocates, were also allowed as we have instructed election officers to first ascertain if someone is an eligible voter and ease requirements for identity cards.”